Interview Series: How Hintd Plans to Shake up the Online Shopping Scene
Welcome to MODA's Interview Series, where we feature influencers and leaders in the fashion industry in the Chicago area and beyond to discuss their design inspirations, their creative backgrounds and what it means to be a self-starter in the fashion world today.
Lucy Danziger and her team wanted to create an online platform that would take the guesswork out of gift giving. Their solution is Hintd, a brand new shopping app launching this fall that serves as both a curated e-shopping platform as well as a streamlined, user-driven online registry and wishlist. We sat down with the Hintd team to talk about the app's conception, how they hope to grow their platform, and their exciting Brand Ambassadors program.
First things first, please introduce your team! How did you all get involved with Hintd? Were you always set on pursuing careers in fashion and tech?
Lucy Danziger was the former Editor-in-Chief of SELF Magazine for over 12 years. Through her Condé Nast years, she worked with a vast array of talented young women, many of whom are now in magazines and digital publishing, so when she started Hintd, she called on her former editors and colleagues and several joined.
The first person to join the team was her long-time colleague at SELF magazine, Francesca Castagnoli, fashion writer, market editor and curatorial eye, who had worked at Harper’s Bazaar and Condé Nast, as well as helping launch Gilt Home and writing for many magazines over the years. Both Lucy and Francesca share a love of helping women get the life they want, and envisioning that life through shopping for things that bring meaning and delight. Francesca joined Hintd at the beginning as Chief of Content and now is in charge of curating all lists and creating the beautiful rich discoverable content on the site.
Lucy Danziger met Sophie Smith, when she was at Kate Spade and had just worked on six continents growing Kate Spade. That company was about to launch shoppable pins on Pinterest, and Sophie realized right away that Hintd was a whole new kind of experience–part user driven, part curated. When Sophie heard about Hintd, she knew she had to be involved because it put the consumer in the middle of the conversation. She joined the team as Director of Marketing.
Lastly, Claire Wardlaw, Content and Operations Coordinator, came to Hintd from her job in fashion retail, as an assistant buyer, and has taken over much of the operational and editorial support for the team and app.
Hintd is a brand new app launching this fall—what inspired you to create your own online shopping interface?
When I was the Editor of a magazine, various people would send me gifts, usually orchids, which died within four days. I always thought everyone should have a list–like an everyday registry without the bride–since it would be so helpful to know what people loved, including charities they support, so you could not waste money and get something useful or meaningful.
I have also always believed in rewarding yourself and I always pushed that concept at Self. If you are treating yourself right, exercising and being responsible to yourselves and others, working hard and making strides toward your goals, you deserve to reward yourself. With either a gift or experience like a massage or something you rarely treat yourself to.
When I was graduating college a woman in my grade showed up at breakfast one morning with a huge sapphire and diamond ring and I gasped. “You’re engaged”? She said “No, I just really wanted a ring and I bought this for myself as a graduation present.” I thought: so smart. So many women get engaged when they just should buy themselves a ring, but not get stuck with the wrong guy! It was a revelation to me. That women could just treat themselves to jewelry and not wait for a man to buy it for them. Hintd believes in telling the universe what you want and then going and getting it–on your own terms.
Hintd is pitched as an app that will revolutionize the world of online shopping; how exactly will it go about doing so? What distinguishes Hintd from its competitors?
For most women, sitting in front of a screen and shopping can be both isolating and overwhelming. I need a dress for a wedding, so I go to a retail site and see hundreds of dresses and I don’t like any of them. Suddenly you feel out of it–what are my friends wearing? Long or short? Sexy or straight-laced? I just exit the page, and don’t buy anything. Or other times I like shopping in the context of a blog or online fashion story, and when I see what I like and go to open tabs, but not transact at that moment–I’ll close out the tabs and lose track of where the items were. When I finally am in the mood to buy something, or have figured out what I want, often I can’t find what I wanted in the first place.
Hintd solves these problems, and more. It’s like having a dialogue with your friends–the ones with really good taste, instead of shopping alone. On Hintd, you see what friends and influencers have added, and you get to become a recommender or influencer in your own set. Each hint or list is like saying: Here’s what I want, what do you want? It’s like shopping with friends since you can compare and comment and have fun collaborating on lists. We bring the social back to shopping online. Collaborative lists let you plan a party, a trip or any other event with friends and make your list together.
The obvious competition is Pinterest, but that’s often very frustrating as a shopping experience, since most of the leads take you to blogs and content that is not where to buy. You can spend hours and never find what you liked in the first place, or it’s out of stock. Pinterest is a scrapbooking site, where you collect ideas. Then marketers see what you are pinning and put their messaging around it.
On Hintd, which is designed for shopping and sharing, you can find what you want and click through to buy it. We have built a Chrome extension and an up-loader tool that will pull in all the relevant information and save it. The experience is an enjoyable discovery process, a peer-to-peer site. Hintd brings the social experience of going shopping with your girlfriends online and allows you to keep track of everything you want in one place, without feeling the pressure to buy immediately.
Describe an average day working at the Hintd offices.
Hintd’s offices are in Tribeca’s Spring Studios, a bustling co-working and event space for fashion and tech companies. With fashion as a main driver for the space, we often are amid season previews and debuts, photo shoots, and events that seamlessly meld the worlds of tech and fashion. It’s fun never knowing what to expect, but despite the excitement, we keep a fairly steady office routine.
We get in at 10 a.m., catch up, outline the tasks for the day, plan the newsletter, curate lists and sell sponsorship–plus work to grow the site. Around 1 p.m., we step out for lunch in one of the many tasty spots nearby (often ending with amazing cookies from Café Clementine), and sometimes we end the day on the rooftop terrace to decompress and have a glass of wine, while we plan for the day and week to come.
What are some of the day-to-day challenges of running a start up?
While growth and development are exciting, it can be nerve-racking as well to not have the security of a giant company, and raising money is always challenging, though we suddenly have a lot more interest in what we are building. We work with developers who are off-site, and endure some degree of delay with the site build itself, but really the positives far outweigh the negatives.
With a small team and no corporate ladder to deal with, we can produce content very quickly and efficiently. If we decide to make a change in the content, we do it. The company is nimble because we work together, and can act fast when news or events come up that drives a list idea, or a new growth partnership opportunity. And despite the distance from our developers, they’re incredible and our system of staying up to date with them is fantastic (thanks, Slack)!
What are some of the best parts of running and working for a start up?
All the freedom and ability to move fast that allow you to be nimble and ahead of the game. How often do you say to yourself: I wish I could convince my boss to do X (where X is something new, innovative and risk taking)? We just do that thing, since we see that as our job, to lead and innovate, make partnerships and grow. The things we don’t think of to grow the company and make an impact in the community are what scare me, since it’s never done, never enough and never over for the day.
Who is Hintd’s target audience? Why is an app interface the best way to reach these shoppers?
Hintd is actually accessible for anyone who loves shopping, organization, discovery, and being social! We say our target is 18-34 year olds, but we really try to make sure our platform has something for everyone. So many women say to me: I may not be your demographic but I love it!
Tell us a little about the Hintd Ambassador program. What would an ideal candidate look like?
Ambassadors are those influencers who love to tell their friends about what is new and cool, so we try to sign up women or men who like to try the latest app or idea and then let their friends know about it. I can tell you who told me about Instagram first, so many years ago. I know that there are people who love to be early adapters. The Ambassadors make lists, let their friends know about Hintd and try to spread the word in their social set. We ask them to help sign up at least 10 people but how they do that is up to them. Please let us know if you are interested in joining, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we can help you get started. We also like to mentor and give advice about careers in publishing and marketing, digital or otherwise.
Looking towards the future, do you have any ideas (or hopes!) with regards to how Hintd will continue to grow and expand?
We hope to be the shopping platform for the next generation. We want this to be your social shopping site, so it’s really up to you how we grow. Hopefully you will invite all your friends, like Venmo but for shopping.
Finally, do you have any advice for individuals interested in pursuing a career in fashion, tech, or even launching their own startups?
The truth is if you are passionate about your choice of career you will succeed. And if you’re not you probably should find a new choice. The most successful people I know would show up for free because they love what they do. Love your work, the saying goes, and you will never work a day in your life. That, and meet everyone, be inclusive, and share information and leads. Truth is this is one big happy family and community, and if you help others, they help you back.